Friday, September 21, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: The Idolatry Of Numbers

Alfie Kohn points out that our love for numbers warps school reform. The introductory quotation and the first two paragraphs serve as important reminders:
“As we tend to value the results of education for their measurableness, so we tend to undervalue and at last ignore those results which are too intrinsically valuable to be measured.”
-- Edmond G. A. Holmes, chief inspector of elementary schools for Great Britain, 1911
The reason that standardized test results tend to be so uninformative and misleading is closely related to the reason that these tests are so popular in the first place. That, in turn, is connected to our attraction to  — and the trouble with — grades, rubrics, and various practices commended to us as “data-based.”
The common denominator? Our culture’s worshipful regard for numbers. Roger Jones, a physicist, called it “the heart of our modern idolatry ... the belief that the quantitative description of things is paramount and even complete in itself.” [italics and bold in original]

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